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Quiet campaign, red rallies and VS wave in Kerala

Last updated on: April 7, 2011 21:42 IST

Quiet campaign, red rallies and VS wave in Kerala

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Campaigns for Kerala polls may have lost a bit of their grandeur, but they are still marked by occasional bursts of red, finds Shobha Warrier

The forthcoming elections in Kerala may turn out to be a quiet and subdued affair. There are no public meetings, no huge cut-outs of political leaders, no festoons, no posters and no long processions to disturb traffic.

From Thiruvananthapuram in southern Kerala to Palakkad in north, it seems to be a colourless and noiseless event.

And the people of Kerala love it.

Of course, there are some areas where huge cut-outs are still visible, but political processions and the grandeur usually connected with election campaigns are totally missing this time.

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Image: The deserted Peroorkada junction in Thiruvananthapuram

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But this does not mean that the people of Kerala have lost interest.

They may be cynical, but their interest in the political process, politicians or the affairs of the state has not waned a bit. Every single person here has an opinion about political parties, their ideologies and their candidates.

Peroorkada in Thiruvananthapuram is one of the most politically active suburban junctions, mainly for leaders of the Left Front who often come here and make fiery speeches in the run-up to the elections. But now, after the Election Commission's directive, the junction is quiet and deserted.

"It doesn't look as if the assembly elections are going on. But we love this. Nothing disrupts our life. This is how it should be," says a resident of the area.



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Quiet campaign, red rallies and VS wave in Kerala

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Campaigning seemed to be a low-key affair not only in the state capital but even in the interior pockets of the state. As we drove from Thiruvananthapuram to Alleppey, we did not encounter a single political procession or vehicle blaring political propaganda.

But in Palakkad, where Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan was scheduled to address a rally, the picture was completely different -- and red.

The colour was splashed everywhere; red flags, red festoons and red flowers with loud speakers blaring revolutionary songs dotted the site. Hundreds of men and women, many of them decked in red clothes, had turned up to listen to VS.


Image: A poster of LDF highlighting the old age pension scheme

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Quiet campaign, red rallies and VS wave in Kerala

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While the southern part of Kerala clearly states its allegiance towards the Congress-led United Democratic Front, northern Kerala is considered to be the bastion of the Left Democratic Front.

Achuthanandan is contesting from Malampuzha constituency. In northern Kerala, he is considered to be a lone soldier, a crusader fighting corruption and corrupt people, including some from his own party. The chief minister is considered to be a saviour for both the poor and the middle class in northern Kerala.

In southern Kerala, even supporters of the Congress confess that they have benefited from some of the pro-poor policies introduced by the CM.

But the educated middle class perceive VS as a very cunning politician who tries to project himself as a crusader. They believe that the state government's achievements have been projected as the achievements of the chief minister.


Image: A banner of Congress leader K Muraleedharan

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Quiet campaign, red rallies and VS wave in Kerala

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A local lawyer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, "I am not a supporter of the Left Front. As an observer, I would say vested interests in the media in Kerala have given a larger-than-life image to VS. It is a very intelligent effort to destroy the party. Now, the media has created an impression that the Left Front's parties and other party men are bad, and only VS is clean. I don't think this tactic will be tolerated by the party."

Though the UDF had swept the Parliamentary and panchayat polls very recently, it is not likely to achieve such a clean sweep in the assembly elections.

It is going to be a tight fight between the two fronts with the UDF enjoying a slight edge.


Image: LDF posters in Punnapra

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Quiet campaign, red rallies and VS wave in Kerala

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UDF, which enjoyed tremendous support till recently, lost a sizeable chunk of that thanks to the many scams and arrests of its top leaders in the last few months.

Though the people of Kerala are not talking about the 2G spectrum scam, it has had a great impact on them. It has also given the Congress a corrupt image.

The arrest of Kerala Congress - B chief and former power minister Balakrishna Pillai has further dented the image of the front. Pillai's party is one of the main constituents of the UDF.

Though VS has claimed that Opposition leader Oommen Chandy was involved in the Palmolein case, people believe that the latter is a clean and honest politician.


Image: Banner of state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac outside a party camp

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Quiet campaign, red rallies and VS wave in Kerala

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To counter the chief minister's clean image, the Congress has brought in Union Defence Minister A K Antony, who is travelling across the state and addressing several rallies.

Achuthanandan, on his part, has hit back at Antony by mentioning the Adarsh society scam and the spectrum scam in his sarcastic speeches.

Political analysts in urban areas claim that the Left ideology does not attract the youth any longer. A survey conducted by an English newspaper recently found that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was the most admired politician among the youth closely followed by Shashi Tharoor.


Image: A BJP banner

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Quiet campaign, red rallies and VS wave in Kerala

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But in rural pockets of Kerala, the youth continue to be fascinated by the Left ideology.

For them, VS is their undisputed leader and they were willing to stand under the scorching sun for hours just to listen to him.
Gandhi or Tharoor do not exist for them; it is still (Communist leaders) EMS Namboodiripad, A K Gopalan and Achuthanandan, who matter to them more than anybody else.


Image: A banner seeking votes in VS's name

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Though VS enjoys a strong support base in northern Kerala, it might not be enough to bring the LDF back to power this time.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which won nine per cent of the total votes in the last assembly elections, hopes to improve its performance by fielding candidates in almost all the constituencies.

After securing some wins in panchayat and municipal elections, the party is in high spirits and hopes to send a few of their representatives to the Kerala assembly this time.


Image: A massive gathering listens to VS Achuthanandan's speech

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